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Sun, Mar 16, 1997
'Anti-China' Mood in the US

also: notes about China's laws; PRC confident about WTO bid; on the verge of a new tradition in Chinese music; Tang ceramics; and more . . .

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United States: history repeats itself---"is China friend or foe?" is the question on people's minds in Washington, reports the Far Eastern Economic Review. "Anti-China" feelings in Washington among lawmakers and others suspicious of a strong China are apparently growing.

An interesting and important point about this mood comes out when we note that the 'New Republic', considered to be a liberal and progressive magazine, and the 'Weekly Standard', a self-described conservative one, both hold remarkably similar views on China, reports the Review: President Clinton's policy of 'engagement' with China is promoting trade at the expense of national security.

"China challenges the ideological underpinnings of Western policy that economic development will lead to political liberalization. China shows us that market Stalinism works very well," the Review quotes one writer who challenges the assumption that global stability is promoted by a China which is integrated with international economic and political systems.

"Analysts agree that the anti-China tone of books and articles published in the U.S. recently is more heated than at any time since the days of Tiananmen in 1989", writes the Review.

Such ignorance and uninformed opinion mixed together as an emotive diatribe could unsettle an already fragile relationship and by no means promotes learning and understanding between the two societies. The Review quotes Kenneth Lieberthal of the University of Michigan: "Until the president of the United States makes a major personal effort to change the framework in which we analyze [China], it'll be very hard to sustain a viable China policy."

(Note: the Far Eastern Economic Review on-line service is free, but requires that users register with them and login, and therefore first-time users should first introduce themselves on the FEER registration page.)

Legal: March 21, 1997 - No Comfort for Criminals is an Asia Week article which discusses the changes in China's criminal code recently passed by the National People's Congress. The authors frame the subject around the recent bombing in Beijing, and for this subject we are provided with some new details: the government denies anyone died when a pipe bomb exploded in the tail section of a relatively empty bus. Ten were hospitalized. And it is unclear that the bombing is related to those in Urumqi a week earlier.

As for the changes in the criminal code, "The present draft proposal contains 449 articles, 134% more than the one from just two decades ago," reports the magazine. The article attributes this increase in number to the government's effort to specify more clearly the crimes and the punishments to be meted out. By doing so local judicial officers are loosing the discretion once afforded to them to decide not only what punishment to serve, but also what constituted a crime and what did not.

The magazine writes, if anyone is arrested and tired for the bombing in Beijing, no longer will they be charged with a vague crime, such as "crime against the revolution", but will face a specific criminal law. The punishments in either case, however, will be equally severe.

The new laws ratified by the NPC in its last session, which ended last week, did not limit the power of the police.

(See the March 8 issue on the Recent News page for more informaiton on the NPC's agenda and legal reform measures.)

Trade: the mainland government is confident that its bid for ascension to the WTO has made positive advances, reports Inside China.

Music: Paul Griffiths of the New York Times listened to the National Traditional Orchestra of China when it played in New York recently and found 'traditional' and 'orchestra' to be rather discordant notions. Griffiths' assessment is an interesting look at how traditional forms have been adapted to the modern era. "The 1949 revolution precipitated an energetic effort to adapt Chinese traditional melodies and instruments to Western norms, as understood by Soviet advisers," Griffith writes. Far from writing the whole experience off as a fraud, however, Griffith concludes, the orchestra may "be traditional after all, but situated at the start of a new tradition, as the Western orchestra was two or three centuries ago."

Art: For the Chinese in the Afterlife, an Elegant Ceramic Retinue is a New York Times's story on an art exhibition of Tang dynasty ceramics in New York City. Colour pictures are included, and the story discusses the significance of these pieces interned with the dead (and disinterred in recent decades by railroad expansion).

(Note: the New York Times on-line edition is free, but requires that users register a name and password, and therefore first-time users should first introduce themselves on the Times registration page.)

History: one final thought for today---whose talking about whom?

    "Many negotiations were conducted between us and the KMT government to discuss the way to end the one-party dictatorship, to form a coalition government, and to effect the necessary democratic reform. However, all of our proposals were rejected by the KMT government, which was unwilling not only to end the one-party rule and to set up a coalition government, but also to effect any urgently needed democratic reform, such as the abolition of the secret police, the rescission of reactionary decrees that deprived the people of their freedom, the release of political prisoners, the recognition of the legal status of the various political parties and groups, the recognition of the Liberated Areas or the withdrawal of the troops blockading and attacking the Liberated areas. This is why political relationships in China are in such an extremely serious situation."

    --from a political report on coalition government given by Mao Zedong to the Seventh National Congress of the CCP on 24 April 1945.

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China Informed

a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day